06 Nov 2015 18:32 IST

A case for Corporate-Academia partnership

For India to regain its innovation crucible, the joint role of industry and academia is crucial

India is set to become the youngest country by 2020. It means that India is in an advantageous position with a pool of young and dynamic workforce available for the next four decades, while the world, including China, will see an increase in its ageing population.

Naturally, quality education will become the most important lever India needs to capitalise on this favorable demographic advantage to realize its dream of becoming an economic power.

Hence, the time is ripe for a closer relationship to be established between Corporate India and academia, similar to the one that exists in the US model. In the US, a win-win collaboration exists between the academia and industry. For instance, at MIT, professors are consultants to Google and Apple, similarly, a lot of research funding is sponsored by Corporates.

On the same page

Conventionally, academia has been priding itself on the effort and focus they place on teaching, knowledge building and pursuit of research. Contrary to this, Corporate India has been expecting technical and functional skill building to take place in addition to basic soft skills.

At high levels, attempts of Corporate India to share the expectations of business with student and academic institutions and academia partnering with industry for research work, has still not resulted in a sustainable working model. One of the root causes could be the absence of a suitable forum that can facilitate the interaction in a structured way.

In my view, there need to be three structural changes to enable this bridge and its effective working:

1) There is an urgent need for a Governmental body under the Ministry of Higher Education that can create policies, set up state-level co-ordination cells and monitor implementation of Industry Academia partnerships.

2) Academia should be encouraged to start IT Extension units in partnership with Organisations within their premises. Just like how a medical college and a hospital coexist within the same environment. thus, making the opportunity to gain hands-on experience on what students learn part of the curriculum.

3) Currently, the prescribed norm for corporates is to invest 2 per cent in any form of CSR. This needs to be re-looked and split into two components, 1 per cent for CSR and the other 1 per cent for CER – Corporate Educational Responsibility. The 1 per cent CER will create a huge mandatory budget that can be channelised towards crucial work done with recognised educational institutes.

Based on my industry experience and multiple interactions with several vice-Chancellors of leading universities, I strongly believe that for India to regain its innovation crucible, the joint role of industry and academia is crucial. A good practice that can be easily leveraged as a quick win is the widely accepted concept of Work-Integrated-Learning programmes.

Forging an ecosystem where we can leverage each other’s strengths across the country is more a structural need today than leaving it to individual initiatives or sporadic efforts taken by a few organisations and Institutes.

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